Updated: Aug 3, 2022
There is a lot of confusion about what makes an educational process 'personalized'. In an earlier post I wrote briefly about the confusion surrounding that. In this post I want to be more specific about those differences. So, let's consider the reasons curriculum created within a personalized learning framework is more effective than state-approved/aligned curriculum.
There are many today who lay claim to personalized learning yet use state-approved curriculum. It's lack of effectiveness begins with its rigidity while curriculum designed within a personalized learning framework flexes with student needs. It can be described as rigid because the state decides what each student will learn each year. It is the same for every student at each grade level. The first assumption is that the same curriculum is appropriate for everyone in that age group and that it is sufficient to prepare every student for their unique, varied futures - clearly impossible. That might have been true prior to the industrial revolution (1820's) and the technology revolution (1950's), but not today.
Today, students collect Information dynamically through a vast system of resources on the internet, videos, pod casts and social media. Personalized learning recognizes learning processes have changed and so it is dynamic and flexible. Personalized learning at Paradigm Learning incorporates critical thinking skills at the youngest ages so a student can parse and evaluate information and gain skills in discernment in the kind of information they are accumulating. State-approved and aligned curriculum loses effectiveness because it is rigid and takes into account little for how students learn differently today.
The second assumption made in state-approved or state-aligned curriculum is that every student must progress at the same, predetermined pace. The curriculum plan must be completed by every student by year's end because at the end of summer break, everyone in that age group moves up to the next level, whether they are ready or not. Personalized Learning combines mastery with a competency based grading system, so each student is able to make progress at their own pace.
Third, standardized testing has forced state-approved curriculum to major on preparing students for the test. That means that the students who can memorize facts and do well on tests will score higher on standardized testing, while students who have trouble memorizing facts or taking tests do poorly.
State-approved or aligned curriculum then is designed to increase test scores primarily for the benefit of the school. This is for two reasons. The first is that each school is ranked against other schools' student test results. This places a lot of pressure on the school for their students to score well on the test. The school's reputation banks on it. Second, test results of individual students are meaningless for the students. Whether a student tests high or low doesn't change anything. Students are not sought out to be helped in areas of weakness nor are they interviewed to discover why they scored how they scored. In the end, the tests have little to do with the students, and much to do with the schools. It may be accurate to say that the tail is wagging the dog at this point.
To the credit of the teachers, they work hard to try new things to improve the learning process. But whatever they do they have to apply it to an entire classroom or several classrooms, not to individual student's needs. A personalized learning framework designs and implements curriculum based solely on how each individual student tests and what the student's learning preferences are.
The nature of state-approved curriculum is that everyone, regardless of strengths, needs, skills and interests, is taught the same information at the same pace as every other student at their age level.
In contrast, a personalized learning curriculum is an educational approach that aims to customize learning for each student's level, strengths, needs, skills, and interests. A learning path is designed for each student that is based on what they know, how they learn best, and where they want to go with their education. Students and educators work together to create the customized and unique learning plan and experience for each student individually. We identify these particular traits of a student's personalized learning path through "The Learner Profile" and "Student Voice and Choice".
The result of a personalized learning curriculum is that students are more engaged and understand the overarching purpose of what they are studying because they are invested in, and own, their educational process.
Finally, there are certainly common facets shared between state-approved curriculum and personalized learning curriculum. Subjects such as math, language arts, science and social studies are included in both. But the system of education, how it functions, the philosophy that drives it, its goals and means are completely different. If there is a downside to personalized learning, it is the amount of time needed to plan for each student. But the downside is for the teacher and administrator. There is only upside for the student.
Therefore, using a personalized learning curriculum will likely always be more effective in producing a positive outcome for students and their education.